PARIS (Nov. 3)
Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld has urged that money, jewels and other assets be included in an investigation into the seizure of Jewish- owned apartments during Germany’s World War II occupation of France.
The Paris city council last week froze the sale of city-owned apartments after accusations surfaced in a just-released book that some of the dwellings, mainly in the medieval Marais district, long known as the Jewish quarter, might have been taken from Jews deported to Nazi concentration camps or who had fled persecution in France.
In her book, “Private Estate,” author Brigitte Vital-Durand said the city of Paris owns 150 buildings in the Marais quarter, some of which had belonged to Jews.
French officials are delaying the apartment sales until a probe is conducted into the original ownership of the dwellings.
Klarsfeld, who is French, said only an official of the French administration who had access to state archives could conduct the probe because state institutions had put up barriers to such searches in the past.
“The money Jews had on them when they arrived at the Drancy transit camp, as well as jewels and other valuables, were taken by the police and given to state-run institutions.
“The money was then sent to the Finance Ministry and was spent by the Treasury after the war,” he said.
Drancy, near Paris, was an internment camp where Jews from the Paris region were taken before they were sent to Auschwitz.
Klarsfeld said the heirs of those murdered by the Nazis “were never reimbursed. The same applies to bank accounts, shares and other assets.
“Research must be done. It will show that part of the Jewish assets went into the public and private hands of those who were not Jews,” he said.
He added that the probe should include apartments in other French cities as well.
Noting that President Jacques Chirac said last year in a public apology that France “owed an eternal debt” for its role in sending Jews to their deaths, Klarsfeld said: “The debt could be paid by research and by the value of assets being given to Jewish associations.”
About 76,000 Jews, including 12,000 children, were arrested and deported from France to Nazi death camps between 1941 and 1944. Only about 2,500 survived.
In Italy and Belgium, if Jewish property could not be traced to an heir, it was sold and the proceeds were given to Jewish organizations.
A similar step was taken in Austria last week after Jewish-owned artworks that were looted by the Nazis were sold at an auction.